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Regulation

Eurobites: BT Still Has Work to Do on Openreach Separation

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: faster broadband for Cardiff; Ukrainian billionaire plans "Netflix of sport"; Sky bags Serie A rights; EU WiFi program a non-starter.

  • Ofcom , the UK telecom regulator, has declared itself broadly satisfied with the progress made on the "legal separation" of BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) from its network access subsidiary, Openreach , though it says that "some steps have still not been completed." BT was ordered to initiate the separation process after concerns were raised about the lack of a level playing field for BT's rivals when it came to issues surrounding wholesale access to BT's network. One particular sticking point seems to be the BT company pension scheme: Due to complexities in the scheme, BT has been unable to transfer as many employees as it would have liked to Openreach. Also, Ofcom has highlighted a need for more independent decision-making from Openreach, saying that the two companies "have not yet struck the appropriate balance between BT as a parent company, and Openreach as a legally separate and more independent part of the BT Group." (See Eurobites: BT, Openreach Separation Back in the Spotlight, Vodafone UK Boss Slams Openreach 'Stranglehold' and Only BT's Dismemberment Will Sate Rivals.)

  • Back in its day job, Openreach has brought "superfast" broadband within reach of around 200 businesses in Cardiff's Castle Quarter, where residents of and visitors to the Welsh capital do much of their shopping. Businesses will now be able access speeds of up to 80 Mbit/s. The project was delivered as part of Openreach's Community Fibre Partnership program, with the local development authority stumping up £42,000 (US$56,000) to help make it happen.

  • Ukrainian investor Sir Len Blavatnik has loaned £410 million ($544 million) to Perform Group to fund the expansion of its Dazn streaming service in a bid to create a "Netflix of sport," according to a Daily Telegraph report.

  • Sky has bagged the exclusive rights to Italy's Serie A soccer league from 2018 to 2021, a deal which will see it broadcasting 266 games per season live. Those Sky customers with the high-end Sky Q set-top will be able to watch the matches in Ultra HD.

  • But this running around on grass chasing a leather ball is so last century, dontcha know? The way forward is e-sports, where pale youths in hoodies and headsets go gaming against each other, not seeing sunlight for days. That, at least, is what Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) and others believe. The German incumbent, like Sweden's Telia before it, is boarding the e-sports bandwagon, forming a partnership with SK Gaming, an international e-sports organization, and will sponsor a team that SK Gaming has assembled.

  • The European Commission's free public WiFi program has failed to get off the starting blocks after it was revealed that a flaw in the software used in the bidding process meant that some municipalities could apply before the bidding process was officially opened, while others were prevented from applying once the bidding process had opened. The program had proved very attractive to municipalities across Europe, with more than 18,000 expressing an interest and more than 5,000 applying within seconds of the call for applications being launched on May 15. The launch will be re-run, once the software glitch has been sorted out.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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